Dr. William Bryant's College-Ready Writing Essentials is an online course that teaches high school students how to write college-level essays. This five-week course covers the writing process and the conventions of writing an essay, walking students through the process of writing a three- to five-page, persuasive research essay. The course covers the mechanics of writing, and it goes beyond them to help students understand such things as the expectations for college-level writing, the importance of critical thinking, how to express their own ideas based on information and research, how to present arguments, the importance of taking into consideration what a course instructor will be looking for, and how to work with peers.
In Lesson 9, Dr. Bryant says,
You need to be able not merely to repeat knowledge but to transform it by teasing out new insights, bringing ideas or information together in new ways, refining a point, adding a perspective that can change the way people think about a topic, identifying flaws in an argument, or helping others appreciate a truth that wasn’t apparent before.
The course has 25 lessons. There are two options: the full package and the premium package. The premium package gives students additional information and exercises, but probably the most valuable extra feature is personalized feedback on their final essay from Dr. Bryant.
The course consists primarily of text that students will read. Most of the lessons—up to the point where students are ready to actually write their paper—have one or two assignments that help build the necessary skills. Dr. Bryant includes sample essays of varying quality so that students can see what he is talking about. Some lessons include links to YouTube videos that expand on topics.
The course has editable, downloadable files for the worksheets and writing assignments. Students do not send these in, although students with the premium package can send in their final essays for comments. The assignments help students work through the writing process to create their paper, so there are no set answers that would require an answer key. However, it could be helpful if a knowledgeable person would go over some or all of these worksheets and assignments to give feedback along the way.
Even though there is no feedback for most of the course (unless you provide it), students learn about peer review and feedback since those techniques are commonly used in college settings. Peer review exercises are included as students work on the introduction, body, and conclusion of their paper. If students are fortunate enough to be in touch with at least one other student taking this course, they can serve as peer reviewers for one another using the form provided. Otherwise, they have to take a step back from their own writing and act as their own reviewer. With the guiding questions provided, even self-review is useful.
Students will use MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines for formatting and citations. While student essays need to have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion, this course teaches students to come up with a structure that suits their topic rather than adhering to a particular structure such as writing exactly five paragraphs.
The course reflects a classical model of education to some extent. Most of the time this is a subtle influence, but sometimes it is more obvious. For instance, in Lesson 12 Dr. Bryant teaches about rhetorical appeals under the headings of ethos, logos, and pathos—terms typically used in classical rhetoric and writing courses.
Some extra files are available only for those enrolled in the premium course. Within the lessons, these go a little deeper into the topics and sometimes have links to other resources such as TED talks. Other extras include additional example essays, rubrics, and a PDF instructor’s guide. The instructor’s guide might be useful to a parent or teacher overseeing a student, but it isn’t essential since the course is designed for students to work through on their own.
For homeschoolers who are unable to participate in a college-prep level writing class, College-Ready Writing Essentials offers the opportunity to receive excellent instruction. There is a free mini-course that students can try to see if Dr. Bryant's approach works for them.